What is a Literature Review?
When students are searching for tips for writing a literature review, first they may simply need to understand what a literature review is. Many of them confuse a literature review with an annotated bibliography, but the former is far more than a simple summary of the sources you have read. A literature review belongs to the category of analytical writing, where you need not only to briefly summarize the essence of a specific source but also evaluate it as well as compare it to the other professional literature sources. When you are working on a literature review, you have to focus on a certain area of interest and provide a critical analysis how the topic of your choice is researched in different peer-reviewed sources. A literature review may be written as a separate assignment or may be a part of a larger research paper, such as a thesis paper, a dissertation, etc.
Drafting a Literature Review
Many students question themselves how they should format a literature review so that they could improve the overall quality of their academic paper. At first sight, it may seem difficult, but in essence it solely requires having an eye for detail and being attentive.
When you are writing a literature review, you should indicate the underlying reason for researching and overviewing a specific topic, provide a brief discussion of the topic, and critically evaluate all sources that you have chosen for the topic analysis.
This is the standardized format of literature review writing, so if you do not have any specific requirements but are looking for some guide to writing a literature review, follow these steps and you will submit a paper of top quality.
Steps to Writing a Literature Review
Step 1. Clarify
If the assignment does not seem totally clear to you, be sure to seek guidance from your professor and ask for clarifications. You may as well focus on the following aspects:
- the number of sources you should include;
- the types of sources that should be used (primary, secondary; books, websites, journal articles, periodical articles, etc.);
- whether you need to provide a summary, critical analysis or a synthesis of the sources (whether you have to review the sources based on the theme or source types);
- whether you are required to provide a personal evaluation;
- whether you have to include headings or subheadings within the paper;
- whether background information on the topic is necessary.
Step 2. Find samples
If you have no idea how to write a literature review, it is strongly recommended to find some sample or a template how to write it. As such, you may search for some examples on the Internet in order to have a look how to structure and organize a literature review on your topic or in your subject area. When finding some results on the Internet, you may also be inspired to introduce some new ideas to your writing. As an option, you may also get some clarity what sources you should use.
Step 3. Narrow down your topic
One of the basic tips for writing a literature review is to ensure that you have a topic that is neither too broad or too narrow. The topic should be narrowed depending on the paper length. More so, you need to decide exactly what types of sources you need so that you do not try to cover all the material that you have found in a few pages. The narrower the topic is, the easier it will be for you to limit the number of sources that you want to consult. Thus, you will survey the topic in depth.
Step 4. Pay attention to your sources and make sure they are up-to-date
When working on a literature review, one is required to pick only those sources that are up-to-date and credible. It means that the research will be more plausible and you will provide data and statistics that depict a real picture of the situation at hand. For example, if you are writing a literature review in such disciplines as Medicine, Healthcare, Physics, Biology, Genetic Engineering, etc., it is a must to provide the most recent findings. Sometimes, when it comes to the research is such or adjacent spheres, information dating back to two years ago may be considered obsolete. On the contrary, when you are working on a literature review in Anthropology, Literature, Art, and other humanitarian disciplines, you can be required to refer to older sources in order to trace how specific concepts evolved over time. In any case, you need to sort out what each task requires.
Tips for Writing a Literature Review for a Research Paper
If you want to submit a literature review of excellent quality, be sure that the following literature review writing tips will come in handy for you. If you want to avoid possible flaws in your paper, follow these guidelines carefully:
- Provide primary sources. Undoubtedly, many students prefer to rely on secondary sources as it is easier for them to work on them and analyze them. However, in some cases, credible information can be extracted only from primary sources.
- Do not rely on sources that do not directly deal with your topic. As such, be sure that you spend an ample amount of time on finding appropriate sources.
- When investigating different sources, make sure that you focus not only on one perspective but even on contradictory points of view. In such case, you will be able to make your discussion and analysis more objective.
- Focus on specific procedures that you have undergone while analyzing the sources.
- Adhere to one academic writing and formatting style to make the paper consistent and properly organized. Since it is a critical analysis, avoid too many descriptions and narrations.
- Cite all sources that you have come across in order to avoid cases of plagiarism.
- Edit and proofread the paper for potential grammar, punctuation, and spelling flaws.
Apart from taking into consideration some specific steps in writing a literature review, you also have to consider specific ways of organizing the collected sources into your literature review:
- Chronological order. If you take a chronological method for writing your review, you need to analyze the materials in the order of their publication. Sometimes, the development of the subject will not thus be properly developed but if you have chosen chronological order for the appearance of sources in your analysis, you need to adhere to such order.
- Publication order. The sources that you analyze should appear in the chronology of their publication in case some significant publication trend appears.
- Trend order. You may classify the sources based on the trends that they examine. For example, when you focus on some history development or some specific functions.
- Theme order. You may outline themes that you have identified and then provide analysis of the sources based on them. Such analysis will revolve around a specific issue or a topic rather than some chronology. Nonetheless, in some cases, it can be recommended to take both of these aspects into consideration: themes and the chronology. Still, keep in mind that more authentic analyses normally shift away from chronological orders.
- Methodological order. When you prefer to organize your review according to this method, be sure that this approach deviates from the content of the material investigated by you. Instead, the main emphasis is put on the writers’ methods or the methods used in the research. As such, you may focus more on additional materials depicting different methodologies.
As soon as you have decided on the mode of organization for the literature review body, it will not be a problem to you to outline the main sections and subsections of your piece of writing. Normally, these subheadings will come up logically as soon as you decide what main focus of your review will be. For example, if you choose a chronological order of paragraph development, your sections will be devoted to different time periods. If you choose a theme development, each subsection will be devoted to a separate theme.
At times, you may need to add some extra sections that are required by content. It is possible to do so without compromising the quality of the whole paper structure. Just make sure that you add only those parts that are completely necessary. Some of the possible sections may include:
- Modern-day situation related to the topic. Here you may provide some new information that is essential for comprehensive understanding of the topic.
- History. Even if you have chosen review organization according to themes or topics, you may need to add a few words about chronology, so this is a perfect way to do it.
- Standards/ methods. In this section, you may delve deeper into the criteria that helped you choose specific sources (primary or secondary; periodicals or peer-reviewed).
Among the other guidelines for writing a literature review, you may come across an idea that it is recommended to include questions for the future research. You may use them for the discussion of the possible implications of the research. Specifically, you may provide some questions that arouse after the review or you may specify how you may further deal with the review results and outcomes.
Get Your Literature Review Perfectly Written by a Custom Writer
Working on a literature review takes some time, but if you are hesitating whether to add a literature review to your research paper or not, be sure that it will add up to the credibility of your research. Working on a literature review will not be challenging if you plan the process in advance and prepare some kind of a plan or an outline, where you will have a chance to think about the format and paper organization. In case you have any questions or difficulties with writing your literature review, do not hesitate to contact EssaysMasters.com for help.
Josie is a writer to the core. She graduated from university in 2015 with a degree in English Language and Literature. Since then, she has been working for EssaysMasters.com as a writer, providing clear and concise content. When Josie is not writing, she spends time reading massive quantities of books or volunteering. View all posts...